The Validity of Online Surveys for Academics, Post-Grad Students, and Researchers Worldwide

“The common facts of today are the products of yesterday’s research.” – Duncan MacDonald

Research drives innovation and change!

This statement is backed up by the quotation mentioned above by Duncan MacDonald. Also, in other words, if there is no research, humankind will revert to living in a world where pandemics like The Black Death (1347-1351) resulted in the deaths of up to 200 million people.

In summary, The Black Plague occurred because medical knowledge had stagnated in the Middle Ages. It is said that the reason for the outbreak was a “conjunction of three planets occurred in 1345, causing a great pestilence in the air.” While, in fact, the reason for the spread of the plague was the lack of personal and environmental hygiene.

To further quantify the opening statement, let us consider the history of the recent Ebola epidemics in Sub-Saharan Africa. Succinctly stated, the Ebola virus is a zoonosis infectious disease. Without going into too much detail, as a discourse on Ebola and its infection mechanisms are not the core emphasis of this content, a zoonosis infectious disease essentially translates into a virus that can (and will) jump between a human host and an animal host. Ebola is also astonishingly contagious; thus, once an outbreak has started, it is virtually impossible to contain it, especially in a world where cross border or international travel is the order of the day.

The Ebola outbreak that started in 2014 and ended in 2016. It was believed to have started in rural south-eastern Guinea and statistics show that it was the largest outbreak in history. It caused the deaths of 11310 people in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. Incidentally, A total of 28,616 cases were recorded.

Part of the reason for describing the horrific statistics is to show the medical research community clearly needed to do something to end this outbreak and to put measures in place to control and prevent future outbreaks.

The WHO (World Health Organisation), USA NIAID (National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases), and the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s National Institute for Biomedical Research (INRB) worked together to produce vaccines that prevent future Ebola outbreaks from spreading like wildfire. Finally, even though these vaccines were only in the clinical trial phase, they have been successfully used to manage and control the current Ebola outbreak which started in August 2018.

The Basics of research methodologies

Now that the need for research and best-practice research methods have been highlighted let’s look at some of the basic concepts that ensure that the research results are robust and can be defended.

Research Methodologies are typically divided into two basic categories: Quantitative and Qualitative research. What is the difference between these two methods? Do surveys play a role in research? And, how can an online survey help a researcher draw overall conclusions?

Qualitative Research

Jonathan Beutlich explains on the homework help site, that qualitative research is “descriptive in nature because it generally deals with non-numerical and unquantifiable things.”

A good example of qualitative research is the study of relationships between two aspects like the symbiotic relationship between trees and humankind. The primary aim of this research is to describe why trees form an essential part of life on earth and what will happen if all the trees are cut down and burnt.

Quantitative Research

Juxtapositionally, quantitative research is about the collection of numerical data to demonstrate research-based outcomes. A solid example of quantitative analysis is the measurement of the number of students at all of the universities in the country that are on some form of financial aid. These statistics are useful when looking at the cost of tertiary education both to the fiscal health of the individual and the government.

The role of surveys in research

Surveys, especially online surveys, play a significant role in the collection of data. Again, if we want to know whether a particular aspect of university life is successful or not, we need to put out a survey asking students and staff to respond. A practical example could be: Do the students like the university’s mobile app? This survey question forms the foundation of the most straightforward survey type and has a Yes/No answer.

Final thoughts

This discussion constitutes nothing more than a brief outline of what is a complex topic. And it forms the foundation for a more in-depth investigation on the merits of surveys as a robust quantifier of data within the research community.

Ranbeer Maver is a Computer Science undergraduate. He's a geek who embraces any new consumer technology with inhuman enthusiasm.